Select Committee on Public Administration Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by The Rt Hon Earl Ferrers (LR 29)

  You asked for views on the White Paper on Lords Reform. Mine are as follows:

    —  On many occasions during the passage of the House of Lords Bill the Government gave a commitment that there would be a joint Committee of both Houses to consider the future of the House of Lords. The Government now says that there will be no joining Committee. This is a shameful breaking of an undertaking which had been given on a number of occasions on the Floor of the House.

    —  It is wrong to expunge all Hereditary Peers. They have much to offer—such as continuity, outside experience, youth and non-professionalism.

    —  The Government say that, in the new Second Chamber, the link with the Peerage must be dissolved. If that is to be the case, then the Second Chamber should be given a different name—Mr Smith, ML of the Upper House, would be a possibility.

    —  The Government says that the authority of the Second Chamber must not be altered. Any change along the lines proposed will, though, inevitably alter the power and the authority of the Second Chamber. It is difficult to see how the Government can wish for a more powerful Chamber as it likes as little interference as possible with its legislative proposals. It would be difficult for the Government to say that it wants a less powerful Second Chamber. No-one would wish to become a Peer if their work were to be of less value than it is now.

    —  There should not be elected Members in the Second Chamber. The House of Commons is the Chamber of elected Members. The House of Lords should not seek to emulate it or to challenge the authority of the House of Commons. Even a partly elected Chamber will give the House of Lords more authority. The House of Commons will dislike that greatly. The nature of the House of Lords will alter. The relationship between the Lords and the Commons will become more fractious and infinitely more combative.

    —  The closed party list system is a bad one for electing people to the House of Lords. Candidates will not be elected on their personal merits. They will be placed on the list at the discretion of the political parties. That will be appointment by another route.

    —  People, who have been elected, will expect to be paid. Some Members who are paid and some who are not is an impossible position. A paid Second Chamber will be inevitable. This will lead inexorably to demands for more secretaries, more research students and, eventually, to a Portcullis House for the Lords, which demand has already been made.

    —  The Government says that it wants the House of Lords to be more democratic and to have more "legitimacy". There is nothing democratic about appointing people to the Lords. There is nothing democratic about producing a report of excellence. There is everything confrontational about having an—even partly—elected Second Chamber.

    —  The House of Lords must remain independent of mind and must be able to continue its highly respected work, for instance in Select Committees, for which it is renowned throughout the world.

    —  No argument has been put forward for the partial elimination of the Bishops. They enhance the proceedings in the House of Lords considerably and have done nothing to deserve their demise.

    —  To retire people at 75 will remove from the Lords some people of great distinction, such as retired Law Lords like Lord Ackner, Lord Brightman, Lord Simon of Glaisdale and others, like Lord Renton.

    —  If the Government wishes to find people, who are successful and who are in the prime of life, to become Members of the House of Lords, they will not get them if they are not to be paid. They will certainly not get them if they cannot call themselves Lord. What we are seeing is not a reform or a modernisation of the Lords but a destruction of a fundamental part of our Constitution. It has been economical in operation and has shown frequently to be closer to the views of the people of the country than have the elected Members of the House of Commons.

    —  Both the House of Lords and the House of Commons must be able to question, and to apply a check on, the Executive. This is becoming increasingly less possible in the House of Commons. The House of Lords must not follow down the same path.

December 2001

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